Halifax filmmaker Andrea Dorfman collaborated with singer-songwriter and 2011 Halifax poet laureate Tanya Davis to create an eclectic Maritime film which pays tribute to the city of Halifax, its loveable buildings and its genuine people.
Davis plays Justine, a meek yet endearing character whose dreams of becoming a musician were abandoned due to her chronic bouts of stage fright. The film introduces the audience to Justine’s unspectacular life, one where she is stuck in a dead-end relationship and an unrewarding job. Things seem to hit an all-time low when Justine’s ex-boyfriend Ben puts an end to their late night get-togethers. Justine, depressed and unfulfilled, nurses her broken heart by picking up her guitar again. Once she meets Ruby (Stephanie Clattenburg), a friendly drummer at the local instrument shop, Justine sees a road to recover from her broken heart as she figures out what she really wants.
Tanya Davis is a poet, a performer, a musician and a singer-songwriter. This is her debut performance as an actor. She does an admirable job of connecting with Justine’s character, making her journey empathetic and comical. Her understated performance brings a gentleness and warmth which reflects the film’s genuine lovability.
Davis also fuses the elements of her other artistic talents together in a refreshing blend of language and sound. The film’s soundtrack is composed entirely of Davis’s own original songs and spoken-word poetry, both of which expand upon the themes of the film and provide further insight into Justine’s thoughts. The unique soundtrack is coupled with vibrant hand-drawn animation which adds an extra level of expression and artistry to the film. For some viewers, the animation may take away from the simplistic beauty the film already provides with its creative camerawork.
However, the overall collaborative process adds to the film’s handcrafted feel, enhancing the intimacy of local setting. Heartbeat’s true charm comes from the old-fashioned, folksy characteristics: the cozy wool clothing, colourful autumn city-scape and alternative music scene. Unfortunately, as is typical with many independent, low-budget films, Heartbeat will likely struggle to reach a wide enough audience to actually amount to much. Nonetheless, it is an accomplished work by a talented filmmaker. The film offers a tale of gentle humour and wisdom, speaking to the importance of following your heart and being brave enough to stand up to your greatest fears.